Windows 8 – Concept versus execution

Windows 8 is out on Friday 26 October and it is quite a gamble for Microsoft, because it also appears to be launching a fundamental change to the look and feel of its desktop software for the first time since Windows 95.

Over recent years we have seen the growth in tablet and smartphone software, led predominantly by Apple and subsequently developed by Google, both to great effect. Many people feel we are now at a seminal moment in personal computer development, when tablets, laptops and eventually desktop computers will merge into one.

Microsoft has now taken the plunge with this theory and launched Windows 8, which is effectively two user interfaces in one. We have the conventional Windows 7 along with the new tablet-style swipe-and-touch Windows App Store environment. Microsoft no doubt views the second of these as the long term future, when one day it will be able to remove the desktop as we know it.

Personally, I think the concept is correct, however MS may have a few problems along the way. For initial Windows 8 users who will probably see this operating system from the desktop environment, there are many problems:

  • No Start bar – the Start bar is now effectively the App Store desktop, which would lend itself much more to touch-screen than mouse use
  • Many more clicks required to perform certain functions as a result of the “dual user interface” approach
  • Dropping programs on to the desktop is much more convoluted than with previous versions of Windows
  • The “dual user interface” approach will leave users confused as to where to go and how to get there – things just aren’t intuitive

However, the positives are there as well but they might take longer for people to appreciate:

  • Many years down the line, this approach should make Windows much more user-friendly for less technically-orientated people – something software designers regularly fail to take into account
  • The concept that laptop and tablet and, eventually, desktop PC must soon merge is surely correct and Microsoft is on the case
  • The new App Store environment does look good and is user-friendly

I guess the most likely scenario in the short term is that we are at another Windows Vista moment. Although I’m sure the reliability of Windows 8 will be a great improvement on the original Vista, I’m equally certain that W8 will not impress Windows 7 desktop PC users and there may be problems getting users to move across, resulting in the launch of a tweaked version – Windows 9? – in a year or so.

Also for this to be a success, Microsoft must get a better hold on the tablet market. Apple has incredible brand loyalty, and so you feel that Microsoft must look to make ground on Google and its Android OS. Android tablets sit at the lower end of the market, so the pricing of Microsoft’s new Surface tablet is going to be extremely important to its success. If the price is too high, ultimately it won’t matter how good Win8 is because it won’t find a place in the broadest market. Read more about Surface here.